It’s not enough to have great products and a pretty storefront. Your business needs to be brilliant at creating positive consumer experiences. But what is good customer service? Do you know what it means to your patrons?
Hint: it’s not just about “being nice.”
We’ll look at:
- the very real impact of customer service on your brand
- 5 essential customer service skills that set you apart from the competition
- customer service examples to help you understand what to do (and what not to do)
Once you grasp how simple it can be to a create great customer experience, you’ll be converting prospects to loyal fans every day.
What is Customer Service?
Let’s keep things simple.
Customer service is how you take care of people engaging with your business.
It applies equally to loyal buyers, new prospects, window-shoppers and non-consumers. It covers how you treat your favourite clients and your knobhead patrons.
Customer service is how your business treats humans.
Consider it the nurturing capacity of your brand. Not all businesses are equally caring. Your brand might offer customer service that’s basic, exceptional, or negligent.
Clint Fontanella of HubSpot sums it up perfectly:
“Good customer service is like art. It’s hard to explain what it is, but you know it when you see it.”
The Importance of Customer Service
The quality of your customer service can make or break your business. A whopping 78% of customers back out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience.
Not surprising really. Who wants to buy from a business that’s pissed them off?
A disgruntled customer will tell 16 people how much they dislike your business. Bad customer service is reputation damaging, whether you’re aware you’ve dropped the ball or not.
It’s too easy to be misguided about the quality of your own customer service. You might not even realise when you’re letting your customers down.
There’s no doubt that good customer service boosts sales. Customers spend 140% more after a positive experience than customers who report negative experiences.
Good Customer Service Skills
So what makes consumers happy?
What defines good service, not just average? There are five core skills you can build on to create a positive customer service experience.
Let’s break them down real quick:
#1 - FRIENDLINESS
Warmth. Courtesy. Being accommodating, kind and an all round decent human.
Make people feel welcome and cared for, regardless of how specific their need. Be patient while they’re contemplating options.
Be helpful and hospitable, even when you can tell they’re not your customers.
If they’re not a good fit for your brand, you can still provide great customer service by directing them to a business or resource that has what they’re after.
Be attentive. Don’t take personal calls. Make customers feel like your priority.
Customers who feel unappreciated vote with their feet.
#2 - PERSONALISATION
You’re not a fast-food chain. So don’t treat customers like they’re anything less than gold to your business.
Learn their names quickly. Ask them questions you’re genuinely interested to hear the responses to.
Get to know them. Remember their order and their preferences. Cultivate curiosity and interest in the human being in front of you.
Don’t talk like a machine. In person or in text. Dave Kerpen of Likeable says:
“If you are robotic or scripted in your social media interactions, despite the best of intentions, you will turn off customers and prospects.
If you are real, authentic, and human in your interactions, customers and prospects will trust you, buy from you, and most important, share you with their friends.”
#3 - KNOWLEDGE
Be useful. Have an in-depth knowledge of your product, service and market.
If you work in hospitality service, you know where each ingredient comes from. You know how each meal is made, so you know in advance what can be made free of dairy, garlic or gluten. You’ve tasted the wines, and you can offer something more informative than “I like the red.”
If you work in retail, you know where your products come from, how many you’ve got in stock, what colours are available, and when the new line is being released. Be enthusiastic about the story of your brands. Know the makers, share the magic of their process.
Instead of spending slow business days on social media, do some research on your industry. Ask questions and learn interesting details about your suppliers.
Educate yourself, so you can be uncommonly useful to your customers.
#4 - PERFORMANCE
Your customers have an expectation that you’ll deliver service in a timely manner.
That time frame is a maximum of two minutes. Less is always better.
Don’t expect your customers to be patient, understanding or preoccupied with the beauty of your product display. Expect them to be hangry, restless, and busy.
Just think of how many times you’ve walked out of a business premise after not being served promptly. Your job is to serve. Do it exceptionally well.
If there are delays, inform your customers before they’re committed. Give them the option to get something else or come back another time. Don’t lock ’em in without the choice. That’s nasty.
Deliver your best service every single day. If you can’t, find someone who can. No customer should have to care about your troubles.
Good customer service means doing your job 100% at all times. That includes speed, skill and smiles.
#5 - CONSISTENCY
Now it’s no good to provide great customer service on quiet days and fall behind on busy days. Your service has to be consistent.
Yes, that’s hard.
But that’s the job. It doesn’t mean you can work miracles. If all your tables are full, then they’re full. But you can make the wait pleasant. You could even make it enjoyable.
If you’re sold out of stock, if you’ve made a mistake, if you’ve upset me, make it right by me.
Consistency of service doesn’t mean that nothing ever changes or goes wrong. It means you make it your top priority to meet the needs of your customers as circumstances change.
You’re prepared. You can provide what they need in the moment. Whether that’s a warm apology, a satisfying resolution or an alternative option.
Bend over backwards to make it right.
Remember, if you fail to deliver consistently good service, your customers will happily cross the road to your competitor.
Examples of Good Customer Service
Good customer service can be simpler than it seems. It doesn’t need to take up all your time or headspace.
In fact, the best kind of customer service is in the small details. You can build it into every touch point of your brand.
Here are three great examples of how easy it is to get it right (or wrong):
CUSTOMER SERVICE IN RETAIL
Humans are creatures of habit. We go back to where it feels good and safe and prosperous.
So it’s likely the customer who walks into your store today has done so before, or will do so in the future.
This is even true for small town businesses where a majority of customers are tourists. Sure, it might seem like your customers are once-off visitors, but you can bet that if they have a good experience, they’ll return.
You have no idea how often they’ll come back to your town, or how many people they’ll tell about ‘that wonderful little boutique’ in nowheresville.
One retail business in country Victoria won me over with nothing more than background music. As you’d enter through the garden, nostalgic 1920’s jazz crooned gently over the outdoor speaker.
Every visit, without fail. Sweet vintage songs setting the mood. I’d inhale deeply and smile every time I walked in.
That single feature was enough to make me return every time I was holidaying in that town – a twice yearly habit I kept for over a decade. I can’t count the number of purchases I’ve made, or friends I’ve introduced to that quaint store.
CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR MAKERS + ARTISTS
Customer service is even more important when you’ll never meet your buyers face to face.
I purchased handmade tea cups from an independent Australian ceramics brand.
They arrived snugly wrapped in eco-friendly packaging (big win) and accompanied by the most beautifully branded care instructions.
I kept the instructions and business card. Not because I need to remember the business name, but because they were too pretty to throw out.
Guess where I’m headed next time I want to purchase a handmade gift for someone?
And I know I’m not alone. A friend of mine recently dragged out a jewellery business card he’s held onto for years because he adored the name of the brand (and his experience with it).
He glowed as he shared his recollection of meeting the business owner at a craft market. She had a gorgeous personality and a kind heart. How could he forget that?
We care about tiny details.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IN HOSPITALITY
Here’s an example from millionaire Denise Duffield Thomas:
“I’m a huge fan of any restaurant that gives free food while I’m waiting, because I get hangry. Giving waiting customers a few nuts, olives, or chips and salsa (my favorite) is equivalent to putting my feet in warm water and bringing me a magazine. It inspires commitment, generates loyalty, and costs very little. I’ve walked out of restaurants after being ignored for ages, but had I been given free food, I would have happily waited for service.”
Just hang back a sec. Did you catch that last one?
This is the voice of a millionaire. Hangry. Chips and salsa. Free food.
We humans are easily pleased.
Good customer service might mean slightly different things to different people. But it’s not that hard to offer service that satisfies most customers.
What is Customer Service to You?
If you want to get customer service right in your own business, start by thinking as a customer.
But don’t focus on your biz, you’re too close to get an accurate take on that.
Instead, put your everyday consumer hat on. Think about what customer service means to you personally. Can you remember the last time you experienced great customer service?
Start paying attention. You’ll find enough examples of good and bad customer experiences in your own life.
We’re all prolific consumers. And we’re picky about where we shop and who we support.
You get your coffee from this cafe, not that one. You buy from certain clothing shops, and you’ll never walk into that shop again. Why? What makes the difference for you?
Notice your positive and negative experiences as a customer, and ask yourself:
- How does this relate to how I run my own business?
- What can I learn from this?
- How does this apply to my brand?
Start doing this, and you’ll gain valuable insight into what your own customers want and need. You might even discover how to delight them beyond expectations.
Build Good Customer Service Into Your Brand
So you see, it’s really not that hard to please your customers.
Simple tweaks can make all the difference. A genuine interest, attentiveness and care go a long way in converting customers to loyal fans.
By noticing how you feel as a customer, you can make great decisions about how other humans (just like you) want to be treated.
It’s always nice to feel special. That’s something you can create for your customers with very little effort.
I know you can take something from this information, and apply it today. I wish you all the best in your business success.
HI, I'm SARAH
I’m here to help you work smarter, not harder. I teach passionate business owners how to charge premium prices, attract the best customers, save time and make money with ease.